Forest Salmon in the Salmon Forest

In a trickle of water among the ferns among the roots of a red cedar tree high above San Josef Bay,

… a tiny salmon lives out its first year, hunting insects in water so dark it feels like air, occasionally shot through with light as the trees high above shift in the sky.

The trees that shade these tiny waters have grown from the bodies of the ancestors of this salmon. Now, this salmon forest is home for the future. This fish is the forest.

This is just one of the spiritual bodies of a salmon. Look at the skin it draws to itself from the water and carries to sea.

Eating farmed salmon is poison for your soul.

 

Where the Woods Meet the Water

Yesterday, I mentioned that Naomi Klein’s critique of this past season of storms and fires missed a Cascadian perspective. Here’s one, from Shuswap Lake.

Let me decode that. When one is of a place, instead of moving into place from a position of external power, one cannot speak of the trees, the rock, the fire, the air or the water without speaking of oneself. The image of the ponderosa pine tree “reflected” in Shuswap Lake is a good approximation of what that is like. So is this Kokanee, from Redfish Creek on Kootenay Lake:

Kokanee are what are called “land-locked” salmon. I doubt they see it that way. There are powerful political and economic forces that make the story of Big Oil critical to weather patterns this summer. There are equally powerful local forces, often expressions of external forces, that make the land susceptible to these global forces, which are called weather but are really economic, social and political, which have great power to amplify or deaden the effects of such global patterns as Big Oil. When we as the people of Cascadia develop intellectual traditions that begin with this migrating loon on a lake drenched in smoke and the light from a red sun, rather than from the smoke and the red sun, we will have the ability to resist Big Oil:

Until then, we will be helping Big Oil along, no matter how much we protest. In other words, protest against Big Oil is vital. Beneath its veneer, however, deeper structural work of bringing the earth into the human social group will need to happen if we are to heal or be in any way whole. We can do this. But it has to be whole, and it has to begin here:

Distance is a dangerous  illusion.

Global Warming is Half the Story

Naomi Klein has written a strong, compassionate article about this summer’s fires and hurricanes, and has illustrated it with stunning and heartbreaking photographs.

https://theintercept.com/2017/09/09/in-a-summer-of-wildfires-and-hurricanes-my-son-asks-why-is-everything-going-wrong/

Her title suggests that her purpose may have been to answer the question as to why in a summer of wildfires and hurricanes “everything is going wrong.” She talks about global environmental catastrophe and big oil. If she were a Cascadian, she would speak about how land use policy, governmental and business policy towards Indigenous people and earth, American personal mythology, as well as forest policy, and water management policy errors have catastrophically intercepted the effects of Big Oil to create extreme situations. Every fire, and every hurricane, needs breakable conditions to create breakage. Ms. Klein also speaks about the necessity of protest and resistance, which are, without argument, important political tools, yet she doesn’t speak about Henry David Thoreau, who insisted, before and during the American Civil War of 1861-1865 that the issue at hand was slavery and the mechanism at play was industrial land use. To speak so transformatively is the real resistance. Thoreau’s resistance walked hand in hand with the creation of Cascadia out of the struggles of slavery and freedom in industrialized mid-19th century USA and its corollary forces in Britain, and their intersection with Indigenous struggles to maintain the earth within human social relationships. You can’t talk about the place without talking about this intersection. Anything else is to talk about the United States, or Canada. That’s like trying to speak about Mozambique by talking about Slovakia. If Ms. Klein were from the grasslands of Cascadia, she would use the words summer with great care. It’s not a word that fits very well here. I was quite shocked to hear her talk in such an elite way about the fires that are still burning in my country, in an apocalyptic fashion, too. The task of speaking better, and indigenously, gets harder all the time for all the smoke.


Shuswap Lake

The rising sun should just not be this darned red.

The Glacial Sky of Cascadia in the Morning

This is not an image of mountains, not of what rises or mounts, but what held against the ice that cut all else away.

The Coast Mountains

The ice is now air. Humans, bears,  martins,  squirrels, eagles and bobcats, to name a few, pass through it: the people of the ice. Nice.

No More Wild Fires Please

It is a catastrophic summer in the Interior of British Columbia. Close to 15,000 people have been evacuated from their communities. Indigenous communities who refuse to leave are isolated. Read about the grim situation at Anaham here: http://vancouversun.com/news/local-news/first-nations-community-holds-on-as-fire-threatens The question of why these people have chosen to stay in the face of catastrophic fire, isolation and great danger can be answered only in troubling ways. They are, however, simple enough. The tsilqhot’in are this place of fire. There is no evacuation. A lot of this has to do with a century and a half of great cultural hurt, but there’s a positive story here as well. Perhaps this image from the height of this land, at the crest of the Yellowstone Plume, in the great caldera that is the heart of winter …

…and fire on this continent and which anchors our country, Cascadia, like the eye of a pool in one of her rivers displays something of the answer:

A pine rooting on the face of the cooled molten plume, from this post about my journey to the height of the land: https://okanaganokanogan.com/2015/09/28/cascadia-land-of-fire/

If we call these uncontrollable and violent fires “wild fires”, we are participating in the environmental destruction that has created them rather than in the solutions that will control them. Until then, they will remain gothic and destructive, like the nineteenth century creations that they are. At the moment, of course, we must protect our homes and our loved ones, with all the vigour we can bring to this terrifying and important work, but let’s do it in a way that leads directly to the future that must follow this catastrophe of environmental mismanagement. Let’s call these fires by their correct names. They are not wild. Fire lives in this plateau. Smoke, such as obscured Okanagan Lake below, is the natural form of summer here.

Through neglect to honour fire’s primary place, it has been called into violent incarnation by excess fuel. The explosive sage below, above my house, is a bomb waiting to explode, and it’s the creation of bad resource policy. It can be fixed. We will have to be doing this in the next few years.

 

 

To say these horrific fieres are wild, is to say that an abstract notion of fire is fire’s base state, and that fire that escapes the boundaries of the controls of intellectual understanding is “wild”. That’s insulting. In Cascadia, wild fire control began a bit more than a century ago, to protect the nationalized forests made out of depopulated native space for the benefit of industrial and recreational use. This management regime was a replacement for indigenous fire management, in land forcibly removed from indigenous control. The indigenous understanding was based on living within space. The replacement, modern civilization, declared the land wild and foreign to human consciousness. That was a lie. Fire remains far bigger than any human or any collection of humans. Perhaps the image below of when the grassland hill above my house burnt a few years back and the fire turned to life within a few weeks can illustrate the edges of the tsilqhot’in resistance to evacuation. Within a few weeks, this:

Nootka Rose Sprouting from Cooked Rock

Let’s bring the irresistible force of living and destructive and creative fire within our social group and develop strategies to tame it. It’s coming to us anyway, horrifically. Yes, let’s save our homes, our farms, our communities, our forests, and our lives with all the effort we can bring to it, but let’s then move on to build a society that recognizes that fire is the natural state of this place.The failure to create civilized, or artful, fire within organic environments such as grasslands and forests, except at moments of catastrophe when fire sweeps in waves across the land due to being ignored for too long and its potential disrespected, is also a created state, but not one of which we should in any way be proud. And I want to be proud of how we live with fire. This work can wait until the crisis is over, but we can start now in a small way, by throwing away that awful racist term: wild fire. The time for that was 160 years ago, two weeks ago, today, and tomorrow. Fire is here to stay. Let’s hope we are too.

 

 

 

A Short History of Whiteness in Cascadia

It’s not a physical thing.

Apricot in Her White Gown

White is a tricky, racial word. Here’s a small piece of a meditation on it from my book in progress, Commonage: The War for the Okanagan.

In English in these parts between Northern Oregon and Alaska and Western Montana to Haida Gwaii, “White” applies to people of Caucasian background, as long as both of their parents are Caucasian; people whose parents might include a Scots Hudson’s Bay Company trapper and a Cree woman from Manitoba are deemed to have negated all “White” rights, or at least it started out that way. People such as Hudson Bay Company Factor Peter Skene Ogden’s wife Julia, whose parents were Sanpoil and Nez Perce yet who was raised by a French Canadian-Cree trapper after her mother’s second marriage, was accorded civilized rights by the British but not by the Americans. People such as the Oblate missionary Charles Pandosy, who came to love the Yakama and despise the Americans yet betrayed the Yakama to the US Army in 1855 to protect it from a war it could not win, was occasionally accorded “White” status, despite being Catholic, but Father Nobili, who built a mission at the Head of the Lake Village at a) Nk’mp, or Osoyoos Lake, b) Garnet Valley, or Summerland, or c) Head of the Lake on Okanagan Lake, in 1840, wasn’t, probably because he was Italian, and Italians weren’t “White” in those days, although they are now. It was all very complicated. From an indigenous perspective, “White” actually applies to the dried white salmon of Mnassatas Creek, where this story took the form of a fish and saved Pandosy from starvation brought on by his own ignorant notion that he was living in a wilderness. This salmon was white because sockeye salmon harvested far up in their watersheds, when they’ve gone into their red spawning colours and have devoured all the fat in their bodies after a long journey, develop a white crust over their red flesh when split the traditional Yakama way and dried in the wind. So, yeah, if the Yakama were calling a man a “White,” they probably meant the red sunburn he got out in the shrub steppe and the white, peeling scab that followed a few days later.
No doubt, the Yakama knew the Christian symbol, Ichthos the fish, and stories of Christ as the Fisher of Men in the “wilderness” of the desert of Galilee. I’d be surprised if they didn’t. Swapping fish stories would be a good connection for any missionary trying to convert fishermen in the “wilderness” of the Columbia Plateau — a country in which salmon were people, in an age in which the children of salmon fishers were dressed in white to be baptised by priests. Some jokes are too good to pass up.

 

Where the Mountains Become Water

In my country, the rivers are born in the mountains. Here is born the Missouri, the Columbia, the Fraser and all their ancestors and all their daughters.

This particular mother is the Cascades: a sea bed melted in the deep earth and lifted into the sky by a younger sea. Look at its wave break in a crest of foam.

This is one of the old ones of the Columbia, the Washaptum. Here, the mountains become water again. Note how they turn to eggs of stone. Look how the current is the flick of a salmon’s tail. Look how the sun comes in waves. This is the wave trough. It is like the call of a whale.

Look how the water and the rock braid together in these depths. This is the deepest floor of the sun.

Look how water and sun and stone and sea mingle and part and mingle again in these depths. That’s how it’s done.

Since the beginning of civilization, long before the pharaohs, Owhi’s people, the Pisquouse, came here to meet the salmon the mountains were calling out of the distant Pacific where they fed on the sun. This is the power song. This is where fish make people.

Come, they called.

Come and be born.

These are the eggs of humans, as the mountains make them.

This is a man rising from the stream to breathe his sun.

This is what he sees when he looks back to his birth. This his mind and heart. These are his children’s children’s children’s children, calling for him to help them be born.

This is what we do here in Cascadia.

We are being born. Sometimes it means writing stories about all of this on our ancestral rocks, just as the pines do. Here the fish are born from the mind that is born from minding the fish.

Everything else is the dying. Does this sound fanciful to you? OK. What about this?

Poisoning the earth down the road from my house, in the Columbia Headwaters at Head of the Lake.

Maybe you like your royal gala apples with poison. When Woody Guthrie, the Traitor, sang his song, “Roll on Columbia…”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=20ZffI6by3A
This is the impounded river: a chain of shipping locks full of southern, warm water salmon-egg-eating-fish.

… he bragged that the Columbia River, the great salmon river of the world, would live on in the electrical grid, translated into pure energy. That’s part of that above. Here’s some more, on the Okanagan Lake Shore:

That’s what these stones …

… look like after Woody’s betrayal. Let us love each other again.

Let us be the children of the mountains again.